‘Hopeless’: Chinese homebuyers run out of patience with developers

BEIJING (AFP) – Newly married and with his first child on the way, auto worker Wang wanted to move into the apartment he bought in Wuhan three years ago but those hopes were dashed by China’s ballooning property crisis.

Saddled with US$300,000 (S$411,000) in debt and, with his unit nowhere near completion, the 34-year-old decided he has had enough and stopped making mortgage payments.

He is among numerous homebuyers across dozens of cities in China who have boycotted payments over fears that their properties will not be completed by cash-strapped, debt-laden developers.

“They said construction would resume soon,” Mr Wang said, only giving his surname. “But no workers showed up.”

He was planning to start a family after purchasing the home.

“It wasn’t easy for us to buy this home. It all came from my savings,” he said. “Now there’s no home, and we still owe two million yuan (S$411,000) in mortgage payments.”

After years of explosive growth fuelled by easy access to loans, Chinese authorities launched a crackdown on excessive debt in 2020. That squeezed financing options for property sector giants such as Evergrande, as they struggled to make repayments and restructure mountains of debt.

Now, they are facing mortgage boycotts and government pressure to deliver pre-sold homes.

In Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, buyers such as Mr Wang said they received multiple postponement notices on their apartments from developer Myhome Real Estate, months past the promised delivery date in late 2021.

The builder said in a notice this week that it had managed to release some frozen funds, adding that it expected to complete the Wuhan project in late 2022.

Mr Wang said he stopped repayments this month, and that complaints to the authorities in the city did not make a difference.

“There’s no hope in life, carrying on with payments like this.”

‘Our hearts are cold’

The “crisis of confidence” in China’s housing market points to structural flaws, said Mr Andrew Batson of Gavekal Dragonomics in a recent report.

Because of their heavy reliance on selling apartments in advance, developers pursued business models that exposed buyers to the risk of not getting their homes, he added.

As financially stressed firms halt construction on projects, “those risks have dramatically materialised”.